Aaron Sorkin Does It Again
Steve Jobs (2015): Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.
Man is Aaron Sorkin one hell of a writer. It's been a while for this legendary screenwriter. Four years, to be exact, since Sorkin's last movie screenplay dropped in the form of 2011's Moneyball. Before that, Sorkin penned The Social Network, one of my favorite films from 2010, and Charlie Wilson's War, one of the most underrated films of the 2000's. So to say I had high expectations of this screenwriter was something of an understatement. And what I got was......surprising. This was, without a doubt, the most un-Aaron Sorkin-esque film I've ever seen. And yet it was still great. Interesting, right? Well, let's dive into it, shall we?
What do I mean by un-Sorkin-esque? Well, Sorkin has a very distinctive dialogue. Every one of his characters are always the smartest people in the room. There's a dry wit to his dialogue that makes it very distinctive, and it's missing here. But here he's kinda limited by the fact that....his main character is already the smartest person in the room! I think it would've been easy for Sorkin to go completely overboard here, but he doesn't, and instead he (and director Danny Boyle) delivers one of the better films of 2015 so far. So what else does this film get right? Well, on top of the awesome screenplay, you have the somewhat good acting of Michael Fassbender. It's tough for a recognizable actor to be sucked into a role like this. Especially when the role he has to play is Steve Jobs. But Fassbender.....he pretty much nails it. I don't know, I'm fairly torn on this performance. On the one hand, Fassbender was absorbed into the character he was playing, however I think that was in part due to the fact that the normal Fassbender pretty much is Steve Jobs already. So I think what I have to do is give kudos to the film's original director, the iconic David Fincher, for casting Fassbender for this role. He was perfect thanks to the fact that he and Jobs are already so similar. (Yes, this is kind of daming with feint praise.) This performance was nowhere near the level of Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. Or Idris Elba in Mandela. Or most great lead performances in a biopic film. But it was certainly more than good enough. Fortunately, the rest of the cast more than carries their weight. Kate Winslet was kind enough to remind me that she can act with her role here, and Seth Rogen showed off some surprisingly strong acting chops when his big scene came. Jeff Daniels, though he was again playing up his character from The Newsroom, had the best scene of the movie with Fassbender, and Michael Stuhlbarg was his usual charming self. Though can someone PLEASE cast this man as a villain in something????? He was easily my favorite part of Boardwalk Empire other than Steve Buscemi because he was cunning and terrifying. This man can do evil as well as Buscemi can. Give him another role like that, Hollywood! You can thank me later.
But this film is certainly far from perfect. Let's talk about my biggest problem with this film, and it again lies in the screenwriting. It's tough for me to complain about this and keep my real-life feelings for Apple out of it, but I'll give it a go. Steve Jobs' overall vision was for a closed-source software system. This is the foundation for Apple today, and is the primary reason they became one of the biggest companies in the world. That and their branding. So while I'm glad they Sorkin is smart enough to bring this up throughout the film, I was extremely disappointed to not get any insight into why Steve Jobs believed that a closed-source OS was the pathway to success. It's a term that's thrown around all throughout the film, but at no point do we ever get any explanation for that all-important question: why. This is Steve Jobs' legacy. And we never get to find out why he was on the closed-source bandwagon when the rest of the industry was living off open-source programming software. We get a lot of why's answered throughout the film, but this one is never answered. Anyway, I also have my usual critique of a biopic to make. Coming in at only 122 minutes long, this movie really could've benefited from another 30+ minutes of film to tell its tale. While the decision to split this movie into only three events was a great one, (and definitely made this film significantly better than the last Steve Jobs biopic in Ashton Kutcher's dismal Jobs from 2013) it simply didn't cover enough to make the overall experience truly worthwhile. Many whys are answered, but many more are left unanswered. And I would've really enjoyed some coverage and investigation into the creation of products like the iPod and iPhone, and not just thrown-together cameos. There's no discussion of the branding side of it at all. I know Jobs played a huge role in the image of the company and its products, and the only line we get about this in the film is about how crappy the original iMac looked. Definitely could've done a better job there.
It may seem like I really disliked this film, but I will openly acknowledge that these complaints are somewhat trivial. They're just amplified because I know Aaron Sorkin is capable of handling the truth. I definitely hold him to a higher standard than most, but he still delivers a great movie here. It could've been better, and will not be dethroning The Social Network for top spot on the Aaron Sorkin catalog anytime soon, but it was still a great film to enjoy. If you use Apple products, you definitely owe it to yourself to see this film. You may be surprised by what you see.
The Critique: Aaron Sorkin delivers yet another outstanding screenplay. While not perfect, Steve Jobs definitely lands as one of the best films of the year so far.
The Recommendation: If you like Aaron Sorkin, Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs, or Apple, you should definitely make time to see this film if you haven't somehow already.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 8/10 Great
Oscar Talk: Yay Oscar talk! I don't see much in the future for Steve Jobs (Fassbender might receive a nomination just because he played Steve Jobs) but I am hoping for a screenplay nomination. That's about it. I didn't talk about technical stuff because there was nothing to talk about. The film looked very technically ordinary, so don't expect a nomination for set design or costumes or anything like that.
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